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Scilly Isles overview
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Scuba Diving in the Scilly Isles, England
Dive Site: Tortoise Rock
Location: East off Western Rocks, Scilly Isles
Depth: 17 - 70 metres (56 - 230 feet)
Visibility: 10 metres (30 feet)
If ever there was a rock that (literally) sticks out from the rest, this is it! A certain super-wow factor label comes with this dive, which should never be taken lightly. It is a challenging one to do, and careful planning is needed. The site has everything: vertical walls, big drop offs, tons of marine life, unpredictable currents, and a deeper profile.
Located off from the Western Rocks in a slightly exposed position, the first thing to do beforehand is to agree a plan and stick to it. The depth profile is deeper and with an experienced skipper, the rock is shot at its uppermost reaches of 17m. Visibility can be outstanding as its exterior walls plummet to 70m. Following the shot line the main wall of its southern side is festooned in a dense garden of white plumose anemones as far as the visibility allows. Below, sheer sides reveal a plethora of grazing cotton spinners, amongst outcrops of colourful red dead man's fingers, which can occur in shades of red through orange, their white feeding polyps adding to the beauty. Mixed in are sea beard colonies, a favourite food of nudibranchs, and a blander colour to the riot going on all around.
On the exposed edges of the outermost pieces of jagged rock the current cuts furiously, and where the most colourful & tenacious jewel anemones are located. Currents can be fickle as the rock surfaces channel it into differing directions. Typically a deeply cut fissure has horizontal alleyways full of colourful squat lobster, nudibranchs and dense patches of sagartia anemones. Filter feeders including lobster are prevalent, but there are many other creatures to be seen like conger and creeping starfish. Fish varieties include rock cook, cuckoo wrasse and saithe. Fissures can open up as quickly as they close, and rock walls come and go. The occasional seal may make a visit, but don't deviate from the plan!
The dive profile should find the upper reaches of the reef in 17-19m. Take care when launching the SMB, check current flow and line length deployed. Your buddy and yourself should be prepared to run with the line on launch - no hanging around. Enjoy the ride on ascent, but watch out for oscillating currents so the buddy without the line should be close or holding you.
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